With the opening of the new mono-brand IWC boutique in Rotterdam, IWC further expands its presence in the Netherlands. It’s the first boutique in the world to reveal a completely new architectural concept, which invites people to fully immerse themselves in the world of IWC. As soon as you come inside, you’re stepping into an environment that allows you to discover everything about the brand’s history, its collections and more. During the opening event, we sat down with Christian Knoop, Creative Director for IWC, to learn more about this new IWC experience.
Frank Geelen, MONOCHROME – Christian, stepping into this new boutique is really like stepping into the world of IWC, but how would you personally describe that world?
Christian Knoop, Creative Director For IWC – We have a long history as you know but a long history alone is not enough. What we try to do is emphasize what we do differently from others, and what makes us stand out. We try to translate that into a tangible style for the boutiques, for people to engulf themselves in.
We have a history focused on technical instruments and innovation combined with design, which results in a formula of what IWC actually is. This formula is the foundation of everything we do, from communication, to the product, to our boutiques. It’s about making people who are enthusiastic about watches, and hopefully, IWC in particular, feel who we are and what we do in every single aspect, not just the watches
How would you say this translates into the style of the boutiques?
We want to create the IWC world by using light, airy spaces and incorporating our brand identity. The colours black and white are important to us, which are reflected in the decoration of the boutiques. The whole space acts like a shop window, where you can get a sense of the entire brand.
Stepping in, you can learn details about the collections, our innovation and engineering, the materials we use, the movements we make, the history of our brand, and everything else. We achieve this by dividing the large space into smaller sub-spaces, with a more intimate setting to discover more about IWC.
Now that Rotterdam welcomed the second IWC boutique in the Netherlands, will you be shifting towards mono-branded shops only?
It’s a combination of several things really. Of course, we focus on building our own world with dedicated boutiques but at the same time, we realize that we need traditional and passionate retailers, as well as e-commerce. We’re performing very well in the latter actually, but that doesn’t mean we will be ignoring the other channels. Each line of sales is important to us.
If you zoom in on our mono-branded boutiques, most are owned and run by IWC. But where we can partner with A-level retailers to achieve the high standards we envision for our boutiques, we will choose to do so. For instance, here in the Netherlands, we work together with Schaap & Citroen. They are able to reach the level of quality, service and people we are looking for. It’s not just about sales skills, but it’s about passion and experience. Clients who walk in should experience IWC to the fullest, and not just the pursuit of a sale. Not many partners can do this, but Schaap & Citroen can, first in Amsterdam and now here in Rotterdam.
If we look at this to customer experience, what is needed to create the ideal environment?
It goes far beyond being able to sell a product. To us, it’s important that you know the brand intimately, and know about IWC’s history, and watches, by heart almost. Essentially, we’re talking about being an ambassador for IWC, instead of just a sales rep. You also have to be knowledgeable about the watchmaking industry. How do people move, what are people looking for in terms of information and prices, but also other aspects of the product and brand.
We want to create an environment where people feel comfortable and can learn about IWC and its products, not necessarily resulting in direct sales. Many boutiques seem to lose a bit of interest if someone doesn’t want to purchase a watch on the spot. To us, these people matter just as much as those who do buy a watch then and there. If we can introduce them to the world of IWC the right way, they will come back to us in 6 months, or a year, or whenever they are ready to buy into the brand.
There’s a remarkable bit of technology used in displaying the watches, is that unique to the Rotterdam brand or is it used in other IWC boutiques as well?
This was first introduced in our boutique in Zürich, about 4 years ago. This open way of displaying watches is ideal for people who are looking to browse products, in our case watches, without the need to directly talk to one of our sales ambassadors. They can get a feel for the watches, learn information about them, find out specifications and so on. This also helps us in talking to consumers and immersing them further into the world of IWC. I do believe we are (one of) the first to do this.
Our open displays also fit in with the style we want to create in all of our boutiques. It’s open, light, inviting, interactive, and specially created to touch and feel, to experience. In comparison to boutiques in the past, this is a drastic change. This type of boutique is instrumental in building a relationship with clients, who occasionally stop by just to enjoy a coffee and chat with our ambassadors. They feel they’re part of IWC, and become real ambassadors for us.
Nowadays clients are spoilt for choice and are often looking for something unique. To what extent do you cater to such requests?
Our teams are used to working with clients with special requests. They know what is possible and what is not within the brand. At the same time, they often have a network that helps them to cater to special needs outside of IWC. For instance, a watch bought to make a special occasion or delivered to a client while dining in his favourite restaurant, happens from time to time. Basically a concierge service courtesy of IWC.
We draw the line at offering modifications to watches however, this is something we cannot do. We get plenty of requests for special or bespoke watches but it’s not possible at IWC. Small series is still possible though, which go through our headquarters in Switzerland, and not through our boutiques. We have done this frequently in the past but nowadays it’s done on a much smaller scale. The cost efficiency just isn’t up to par, as tooling and development costs are just as high for 10 watches as they are for 10,000 watches. It’s just not scalable for us.
Certain accessories like straps in a bespoke size are possible, even outside of the official IWC portfolio. We’ve done that in the past, and we still do that today.
How do you target your audience and how do you get them into your boutiques, now that there’s this second one in Rotterdam?
Nowadays we have clients the world over that are well-informed about IWC, even before entering the boutiques. We have a very good presence on Social Media and through platforms like MONOCHROME, which allows people to find out all the details about a specific watch, collection or brand. On one hand, people make a very clear choice to tap into existing relationships, for instance with multi-brand retailers that carry IWC, if they’re looking to purchase a watch.
Of course, the availability of pieces drives people to other sources if at first, they don’t find what they are looking for. If multi-brand retailers do not have something in stock, the logical next step is a mono-brand boutique. On the other end, we see people who are deliberately choosing to pursue a specific brand and want to experience it to the fullest. That leads them to our boutiques directly, which allows us to open up the entire world of IWC to them, even for accessories, services, etc.
For more information, please visit IWC.com.